Why does Western New York need another women's business group? That was the question WBFO posed to Chris Belin, co-founder and vice president of WINC Buffalo, or Women Inspired by Networking and Collaboration. The group's motto is "Strong women look a challenge in the eye and give it a wink!"
WINC was founded in January with the mission of being "a deliberate community of high-caliber professional women," collaborating and networking to build support and an atmosphere of "mutual success." There also is a mission of volunteerism. Each year, WINC plans two events from which all proceeds are donated to a local charity.
"To us, (high caliber) means somebody who's working to be the best in their profession. Somebody's who's putting in the extra effort, like joining a group like this, and leaving her family once a month at 6:30 p.m. to go to a meeting or doing the continuing education to be the best in her profession," Belin said. "There's lots of different types of professional women, but we are all aspiring to be the best in the community."
Anyone wanting to join WINC would attend a meeting as a member's guest and go through the application process. All ages and experience levels are welcome, and current members get a vote on new members. During the year, the group also holds open meetings, when all women are welcome. An open meeting is coming up Dec. 9 at the Anchor Bar on Transit Road in Williamsville.
What is different about WINC is that it accepts only one woman per industry.
"We did that to ensure that, number one, the woman that committed to that spot was going to show up, not only to the meeting but show up for other people in the group," she said, "and we wanted to be a source of referral for each other. We wanted to share success with each other. So if I have a friend who needs an accountant, I know exactly who I'm going to refer, versus having to choose between the three accountants that are in the group."
WINC defines industries based upon a professional woman's customers or audiences. For example, media is one industry, but there is room in the group for an advertising manager, public relations specialist, film producer and other media specialities. If an industry is already represented, a woman in the same industry would have to wait until that slot opened.
Belin said it is not a matter of exclusivity, but trust.
"Because at the end of our meetings, we do a sharing segment where we talk about, like, where's your struggle in business right now or what's something you need help with? Also we need to be vulnerable, too. So you need to be able to trust the people in the room when you have those converations," she said.
This holiday season, WINC is holding one of their annual events. "Sip. Shop. Support" will be held Dec. 3 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at Riverworks in Buffalo. More than 40 women-owned businesses will be selling their products amongst the hors d'oeuvres and desserts. All proceeds will benefit the WNY Women's Foundation.